I hope everyone is having a relaxing weekend! I was pretty silent (well, less active than usual!) here and on social media due to a water leak that turned my living room into an indoor swimming pool and that urge to read book after book without stopping… But I’m back, and hoping my reviewing skills haven’t disappeared…
Today I’m reviewing a special book…
Title: The Last
Author: Hanna Jameson
Date of publication: 31st January 2019
Format: uncorrected bound copy
Number of pages: 392
Breaking: Nuclear weapon detonates over Washington
Breaking: London hit, thousands feared dead
Breaking: Munich and Scotland hit. World leaders call for calm
Historian Jon Keller is on a trip to Switzerland when the world ends. As the lights go out on civilization, he wishes he had a way of knowing whether his wife, Nadia and their two daughters are still alive. More than anything, Jon wishes he hadn’t ignored Nadia’s last message.
Twenty people remain in Jon’s hotel. Far from the nearest city and walled in by towering trees, they wait, they survive.
Then one day, the body of a young girl is found. It’s clear she has been murdered. Which means that someone in the hotel is a killer.
As paranoia descends, Jon decides to investigate. But how far is he willing to go in pursuit of justice? And what kind of justice can he hope for, when society as he knows it no longer exists?
I was in London the first time I laid eyes on a proof of The Last by Hanna Jameson. I remember clearly the moment I turned it and read the blurb. I recall thinking “wow.” The end of the world AND a murder? I’m a sucker for dystopian novels that give me the chills with the most awful scenarios bringing out what humanity is really made of. Add to this my addiction for dead bodies and you can tell The Last looked as if it had been written just for me! My heart was dancing a happy dance when I was offered a proof copy of my own at Bloody Scotland!
So… Was it all I wanted it to be?
To be honest, as enthusiastic as I was about this novel, I had no idea what to expect, or what I wanted it to be like. I only knew I wanted to forget 2019, our ‘near end of the world Brexit-Trump-wars-and all the bad stuff happening’ and enter a dark and somehow comforting apocalypse stuck in 392 pages, knowing that at the end of my reading, I’d look up and the universe would still be here.
The Last is written as a diary. Jon Keller, historian, decides that a testimony of the after-nuclear disaster which has destroyed the world might be of some use. Therefore, he starts jotting down events, memories, details of the daily ‘life’ in the Swiss hotel he finds himself stuck in.
The opening struck me. How do you think you’d get the news if nuclear bombs were bringing the world to an end? I’d probably learn the news from Twitter. Then Facebook. Then the TV. Then what? If nothing is left, then nothing more can appear on our screen. This idea scared me to death. It dawned on me I rely so much on social media in many aspects of my life, from blogging to checking on my friends or looking for jobs. I’d feel naked without this constant noise in my pocket. And the day those interactions disappear, I’ll know the world as we know it is over. The author really did a wonderful job at describing how human being adapt to change in extreme situations, but also how many of us have walls of habits we don’t pay attention to. Running hot water? A given. Internet connection? Of course. Food? Delivered weekly! Now I know I am totally unprepared for a zombie attack, a nuclear surprise, or a cyber-attack. If I usually don’t mind when reading this kind of things in its usual genre, here, in the middle of nowhere and in a setting so close to what we are living now, it made me uncomfortable. And panicky! And it was only the beginning…
Imagine yourself alone, far from your family, surrounded by strangers and snow. A hotel is a place to stay, not a home. How do you know who to trust? Who gets to decide? What happens to the daily practical decisions? Well, we grownups, find a new order, we create new rules, and the characters in The Last are pushed to the limits of their humanity to give the reader a taste of devastation. Hanna Jameson reminded me we may have brains and whatever, our survival instinct can bring the worst in people. Desperation, suspicions, loneliness… This novel goes over many steps survivors have to go through. I loved being appalled, surprised, frightened, and hopeless… I found relief in fleeting moments which rekindled my faith in mankind.
Then we find a body. In the big scheme of things, who really cares about a dead girl hidden somewhere in a hotel sheltering twenty people from the impossible state of the world? Jon does. And I did, too. This mix of genres is a welcome and original combination. Although I did hope there would be more about the mystery body and its murderer, I understood that this ‘issue’ was not as urgent as it would have been in a regular crime fiction novel. Ties are not left loose and answers are given (thank you, dear author!) I hate not getting to know! But the rather open ending is satisfying in a chilling way. Life goes on…
What I like most with awful apocalypse scenarios is the psychology behind the characters involved. The Last explores all kinds of reactions to the end of the world, from tears to fights, from the urge to flee to the instinct to stay alive. Hanna Jameson proves she knows what she’s talking about with carefully-chosen protagonists far from clichés and so close to us. Personalities get revealed as days go by, we get to learn about everyone in a deafening silence, a chest-tightening atmosphere, and a brilliantly weaved plot. Like I said earlier, characters adapt (or not!!!), decisions are made, choices are faced, and you can’t help being swept by this addictive nightmare served by a gripping writing.
The Last is a powerful surprise, a novel with a taste of current affairs and the core of mankind.
The end of the world is coming 31st January! Get your copy!
Jameson had written the first draft of her debut, award-nominated novel – SOMETHING YOU ARE – at just seventeen. Something You Are and two further novels in the series – GIRL SEVEN and ROAD KILL – are available now in the UK, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands.
She lives in London currently, and is working on screenwriting projects. She likes whiskey, history, and emotionally taxing TV shows.